Robin 2917 Louise Sorensen June 24, 2011
This is a Friday Flash Fiction from Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog; word limit 1000, the challenge, to combine two types of fiction from the choice of Men’s Adventure, Noir, Steampunk, Erotica, and Superhero. A friend of mine suggested Noir/Steampunk, and here it is. 1782 words. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-x (just gave it a quick edit June7, 2012. Amazing how much one can improve in one year.)
A fancy gent wearing a dove grey morning suit approached me at my place of business. He held out one of my cards. It read:
Robin 2917, Detective. Discretion Guaranteed
My name is Robin. The corner of 29th and 17 is my office.
“Is this yours?” he said, referring to the card, while he stared at the cleavage pushed up by my tight black trench coat.
“That’s me. What can I do for you?”
“My wife. I suspect she may be engaging in an affair… of the heart. I want you to follow her… report back to me. I would need proof…” His ginger mutton chops trembled. His soft face and deep set brown eyes seemed familiar to me. I’d seen him at my other place of work, the Blue Lion Saloon. He didn’t recognize me; too busy assessing my assets.
I wore a hatchet in my left holster, a knife in my right, and heavy black knee high boots. If any man got the wrong idea from the amount of bosom I showed, he’d better be wearing a steel codpiece.
I flicked a contract card and a pen from my pocket, wrote ‘Follow wife/ suspect affair’ on it, took my knife out and pricked my finger. I let the drop of blood balance on the tip.
“Two years rent… I’m registered at the Towers.”
“You don’t look like you’re going to last two years,” he said, wrinkling his nose, and looking me up and down.
“Fifteen months. Take it or leave it.”
“Fine,” he said, and licked his lips. He drew his own knife and pricked his finger. I held out the contract and we both deposited a drop of blood on it.
“If I go home tonight and the rent‘s not paid…” I said frowning and twisting my blade at him before putting it away.
“I‘m a man of my word.” He shoved his card bearing at me and turned to go. “She‘ll be leaving soon.”
Checking the address I hurried to the bus stop. Passing a garbage strewn alley I heard a mewling sound. Sighing, I stopped and looked in. A half grown kitten sat beside his dead mother. There was no sign of a string or twine around his neck, so it didn‘t look like he was being used for girly bait by any hugger muggers. I stepped through the garbage and squatted down beside him. Rats rustled close by. The smell was worse than usual. I rubbed him under his ear; he froze for a moment, then leaned into it, purring, only skin and bones.
“You‘re going to have to leave your mommy and fend for yourself, junior.” I wished I could help him, but the city is full of starving creatures like this little grey and white fluffy. I stopped rubbing his ear. Stood. He looked up at me with wide innocent eyes. I pulled out my hatchet, looked around. No one in sight. I swung the hatchet with great force. It hit a large rat a that had been dining on a piece of rotting pigeon a few feet away. I retrieved the rat, set it down in front of the kitten, and chopped it into bite size pieces for him.
“There you go. Enjoy.”
I looked back as I walked away. He was hunched over the biggest meal he‘d ever had, growling as he fed. Maybe there was hope for him.
I caught a bus and stood on the running board at the back, away from the smoke stack and boiler. The conductor sized me up, thought about pushing me for a ticket. I reached down and fondled my knife and he thought better of it.
Standing across the street from my clients’ house, I was just in time to see his wife come out the front door. She wore a grey dress with a full bustle, and looked to be in her early thirties, with rosy cheeks, clean skin and ample proportions. She’d never missed a meal. Two little kids watched her from the bay window. They looked healthy and well cared for. A uniformed nanny stood behind them and hustled them off after a bit. I‘ll bet they had first class air cleaners in that house.
The wife set a good pace down the sidewalk, walking so fast I could hardly keep up. I had a coughing fit and had to stop for a few moments. Fortunately, she paused at a large rose bush growing through the wrought iron fence. Pulling out a little silver pocket knife, she cut off a fat pink bud. She fished a water bottle out of her bustle, rinsed the soot off the rose, gave it a brisk shake, and affixed it to her bodice.
I popped a pill into my mouth; my breathing eased with the first heavy whiff of menthol and I stopped coughing in time to pick up the pursuit.
Arriving at the bus stop, she took a ticket seat in the scrubbed air pod. I took my usual on the running board and pulled a Clean Air mask up over my nose.
She got off at the Airport and hurried to the air ship holding area. I checked the name and picture of the pilot on the gate she had entered. Wren Murphy; as sleek and trim as the little ship he flew. He was sprawled on a plump sofa in the lounge area and stood to attention the moment he saw her. Very handsome in his clean blue uni, he picked her up as though she was feather light.
“Adorable!” he shouted, smiling and whirling her. I don‘t know if she had a terrific personality, or that was her name. When he kissed her on the lips, I hated her worse than death. More than her clean air, and her regular meals and her perfect life, I envied her that handsome man, who was so happy to see her. I would have given my left kidney for a romp with him, if I hadn‘t already sold it to buy food. He took her hand and they headed towards the door marked ‘Private‘. Old Rockminer, the husband, had been right.
I went home. The receptionist confirmed that the rent had been paid. Fifteen months. I went up to my room, had a warm beer, and rinsed my face. Then I tightened my corset a few notches, plumped my breasts, and headed out to my night job. It was raining. The gutters were afloat with garbage and small dead animals. I pulled my hood over my head, and let the sound of the rain soothe me.
I like working at The Blue Lion. Three nights a week I get to sit down, play the piano, and sing for beer and tips. After a couple of pills and a few beers I can sing all night without coughing. I set the mike on echo, or reverb, depending on the song, and just have fun, lost in the music. I know the words to almost any song any barfly can call up, and if I don‘t know them, I make them up.
People seem to like that even more.
Rockminer didn‘t show up that night, but the floozy he liked to frequent did. She was a strawberry blonde who went by the name of Deviney. She liked to park her behind near the steam generator to stay warm on cool rainy nights.
I joined her after my set and bought her a drink.
“You sang nice tonight, Darlin‘,” she said downing a tequila. “Mind if I light up?”
“Go ahead,” I said, leaning back. I took a swig of beer.
She looked at me to make sure I wasn‘t kidding about smoking beside me.
“One little cigar won‘t make any difference,” I said. She lit up.
“You know a friend of mine… Ty Rockminer,” I said, starting the dance.
“Who?” she said, drumming her long red fingernails on the bar.
“Rockminer. Fancy. Red hair, mutton chops. Well fleshed.” I ordered her another drink and cigar to refresh her memory.
“I saw you out with him one day, riding in his car. Two little coal monkeys were stoking it. He had a man with a whip in the back to keep them from slacking. You pointed at them and laughed.”
“They were well fed,” she said. “They get to sleep in the house. I was laughing at them because even wearing little monkey suits, shovelling coal and getting whipped, they were better off than most of the children on the street. He didn‘t see the funny of it.” She laid her hand around the new bottle and cigar and brought them to her chest. Her eyes reflected the glint of the gaslights; in the gloom, the tops of her breasts shone like twin moons.
On the third drink she admitted to knowing Ty Rockminer. By the fifth ,she admitted to being in an affair with him. At the ninth, she signed an affidavit to that effect with a drop of blood. Man that girl could drink.
It was late when I left. I got the feeling somebody was following me and turned around. A trio of young fancies stood swaying on the sidewalk. In no mood for fun or games, I whipped out my hatchet and whacked the butt end on my palm. They glanced sideways at each other and drifted away.
When I got home I sat on my bed, faced with a dilemma. I had the goods on both Rockminers. Could I use this to my advantage? I thought of the two little kids I had seen looking out the window, watching their mommy go out for a morning with her lover. I didn’t give a toss about the wife, or the husband, but I kind of liked the little kids and the flyboy.
What the hell, I thought. I’m twenty years old, and I’ll be lucky to last another year. I decided to have a little talk with the missus the next day. She could have Deviney’s affidavit to do with as she pleased. I would tell the husband his wife was a saint and went out in the morning to perform charitable works. In return, I’d get an afternoon with her flyboy.